Archive for the ‘books & movies’ Category

Shaping the art and soul of my community

April 3, 2015

Shaping the art and soul of my community.


Top Movie 2012

February 26, 2012
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (film)

OMG - What Movie is Taking Home Gold?

The Oscar goes to ….. by Cheryl Phillips

The Artist, The Descendants, 
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Help, 
Midnight in Paris,
Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse.

With Hugo and The Artist leading the nominations with 11 and 10 respectively, I feel comfortable saying that these two will probably split the technical awards. We will see them walk away with Art Direction, Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound and most likely Best Director. Both of these films are what movies are all about – pure entertainment – a visual delight. But will either take the big prize???

So far The Descendants, The Help and The Artist have each picked up a win at the other award shows, so definitely these three seem to be the front-runners. A recommendation on The Tree of Life – Don’t bother. When every reviewer around writes, “What the hell was that all about?” it’s pretty much a given that you might want to skip this one. Here is a sentence from a review on “The repeated shots of trees, water, clouds, sky and figures haloed or backlit by intense, almost heavenly light would seem to indicate that, yes, there is a God, but uncertainty permeates the entire story, if indeed there is a story – and this, too, was the subject of debate.”

What???? I think this is the new generation’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. You may have needed to take drugs to appreciate it. I confess I did not see War Horse. I am not a big fan of Steven Spielbergʼs melodramatic films than run 2 and a half hours long. I tried to force myself to go, but the more I heard from friends that did go, I wasnʼt willing to give up the time. Donʼt think this has a chance of taking home the oscar gold.

Midnight in Paris might walk away with Best Original Screenplay for Woody Allen, but this will not win the Best Picture award. It was one of my favorite movies last year and I recommend it to all who may have missed it at the theater. Did it even come to the SCV?

The final two: Moneyball and Extremely Loud.……..were both exceptional films. Moneyball was a fascinating story about baseball that wasnʼt really about the game, and I saw Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close twice in the past few weeks just so I could share this heartfelt movie with more friends.

The envelope, please……… I have to go with The Artist for the Best Picture, but deep down in my gut I can see The Help surprising us all. Weʼll see.

I want to thank Cheryl for her review of the Oscars. Cheryl has amazing insight into the movies and now I find she has some pretty amazing history! btw Cheryl, my pick for top movie – Hugo (which I didn’t see but the Academy loves Scorsese). And I’ll bet 10 cents.

and the Oscar goes to …..

February 24, 2012
Academy Award

Oscar gold

I think I’ve only seen one movie up for an Academy Award this year (“Midnight in Paris”) but my friend Cheryl is my go-to gal when it comes to all things about movies and books. I knew she was a school librarian but had no idea why she was such a movie fan until she sent me her latest post.

Turns out Cheryl’s grandfather, aunt and dad did all the shooting for the actors in Annie Oakley with Barbara Stanwyck in 1935. They also worked as sharpshooters in the Howard Hughes’ 1930s film Hell’s Angels. Every since the age of 8, Cheryl has never missed an Academy Awards show. Fun food, engaging conversation, breath holding and finger crossing was the way Cheryl describes Oscar nights in her home.

She continues this tradition Sunday with her sister and her daughter Amy, as well as Amy’s best friend Tyler, food, drinks and Oscar ballots. Each win, she says, is worth 10 cents. (Not much, but it’s the win that’s important, right Cheryl?). Of course, the girls all love the pre-Oscar shows so they can rate the dresses and jewelry.

If you are like me and haven’t seen many of these movies, Cheryl gives us a little insight with her picks for Oscar night.

AND THE OSCAR GOES TO ….. by Cheryl Phillips

Best Supporting Actress: OCTAVIA SPENCER – The Help

Here are the other  nominees: Bérénice Bejo – The Artist, Jessica Chastain – The Help, Melissa McCarthy -Bridesmaids, Janet McTeer – Albert Nobbs

Last fall I wrote a review of The Help on this blog and predicted Jessica Chastain would be nominated for her role as Celia Foote. Chastain was nominated and she did an amazing job of portraying Celia, but neither Chastain nor any of the others will beat out Octavia Spencer as Minnie in The Help. She has won the Golden Globe, the Critics Choice, the BAFTA (British Academy Award), and her peers gave her the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award. Iʼm feeling pretty confident in predicting a win for Octavia in the Supporting category.

Best Support Actor: CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER – Beginners

The other nominees are Kenneth Branagh – My Week With Marilyn, Jonah Hill – Moneyball, 
Nick Nolte – Warrior, 
Max Von Sydow – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  (I will never understand how Jonah Hill got on this list and Ewan MacGregor in Beginners and Albert Brooks in Drive are not.)

Anyway, again all but the above mentioned did a great acting job in their respective films – Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier did an amazing job, as did Max Von Sydow in Extremely Loud….his body language was absolute perfection, but it is Christopher Plummer as a 75-year-old widower who comes out of the closet to his son that will take this award. Over the years Plummer has given us so many great performances and there is no doubt his peers will want to honor him. Since Beginners was a small independent film that was out last summer and, of course, did not play in Santa Clarita, thought you might like to see a bit of his acting before the awards Sunday night.

Best Actress: VIOLA DAVIS – The Help

Both the Best Actress and Supporting Actress nominees gave us stunning performances this year. Last week I saw Meryl Streep in Iron Lady and, as always, she never lets me down.  Her depiction of Margaret Thatcher in appearance, speech and demeanor was flawless. She captures the aging process and respectfully deals with Thatcher’s dementia with dignity. But it is Viola Davis as Abilene in The Help that’s my  prediction for the win in the Best Actress category. Davis didn’t have any news footage to review, speeches to listen to,  or people to interview to prepare for her  fictitious character.  She only had her mom, who was a real maid in the pre-Civil Rights era South. Her mother’s painful memories and feelings of oppression are very real to this day, and she has yet to see her daughter’s portrayal of a maid in the early 1960s. Maybe that’s why I believed Abilene. I felt her silently swallow her pain each day. In her eyes I saw  her sadness and loss, her love and tenderness.  She was the quiet part of the movie with all the noisy Southern girls going on and on and on. She made the movie better. I hope she wins. (cinderellie side note: loved Davis in Doubt).

Best Actor: JEAN DUJARDIN – The Artist

This will be one of the more exciting calls of the night. The other nominees in this category are: George Clooney – The Descendants, Brad Pitt – Moneyball, Demian Bichir – A Better Life, and Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

So far Clooney and Dujardin have split the awards. Clooney took the Critics Choice award and Dujardin has won the BAFTA and the SAG award. They both received a Best Actor Golden Globe for Musical and Drama. There is word out that Brad Pitt could be a possible spoiler in this category, so this will be the envelope to watch. Iʼm going to go with Jean Dujardin only because his peers gave him the SAG and they will be the ones voting here. Or maybe, George. I do love George………………….

BEST MOVIE: To Be Announced – There are a lot of nominees.

So here’s a head start via Cheryl. You still have time to run out and catch one of these performances. It always makes Oscar night more fun when you know what movie they are talking about.

Hugs for Hugo

November 30, 2011
Caldecott Medal Books

good books can be great movies

HUGO by Cheryl Phillips
I absolutely loved Hugo.  I am not a big fan of 3D  (I don’t really get it , so we just saw it on a regular screen). Beautiful art direction, cinematography and production design.
Do yourself a favor and go to bookstore and browse at the Caldecott award-winning book by Brian Selznick.  It’s the size of a Harry Potter but is filled with drawings and some text.  Martin Scorsese made those drawings come alive.
 No time to write my own review but here’s a good one on Hugo:

Former elementary school librarian, Cheryl Phillips is an avid reader, community activist, mom and grandmother. She also enjoys an occasional movie in her spare time.

It’s a Wonderful Life… but I want more!

November 28, 2011
Screenshot of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in ...

An angel got his wings!

Set the DVRs – the holiday movies are upon us! I have to say I’m a sucker for all these movies and when I’m wrapping gifts, I love to put on a little “It’s a Wonderful Life” to get me in the spirit.

My favorite by far is “The Bishop’s Wife” starring the beautiful Loretta Young, gorgeous Cary Grant, and the ever-great David Niven. Not many people have seen this movie so I liked to give it out to my friends for Christmas. There was a remake sometime back (“The Preacher’s Wife“) starring Whitney Houston, Courtney Vance (he’s married to Angela Basset btw), and Denzel Washington. Filmed during Whitney’s glory days, it was a pretty good movie (but NOT as good as the original).

New movies are sneaking onto my list, however, starting with “Family Man” and “Elf (Merry Christmas! What’s your favorite color?”). I’m sure there is more but I can’t think of them at the moment.

But I want to hear from you. Send me your list of favorite holiday films and enter into my contest. Winner will receive a packet of holiday DVDs to play all through your gift wrapping moments.

Deadline is next Monday (12/5). I’m looking for one I totally forgot and trust me, “The Bishop’s Wife” will be part of the package.

It’s Called Acting!

November 8, 2011
Cover of "Capote"

Cover of Capote


Truman Copote was a fascinating man. When they made a movie about his life while writing “In Cold Blood,” they picked a fabulous actor to portray him.

Two of the most underrated actors (in my opinion) – Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Gene Hackman.

Hoffman came into my scope with “Scent of a Woman” (he played the other boy on trial at Bard School). He then went on to other interesting roles including a sex-starved preacher in “Cold Mountain.” And who didn’t love him in “Capote?”

Gene Hackman on the other hand can play just about any role thrown his way (and usually supporting). Beyond Popeye Doyle he was fabulous as Senator Kevin Keely in “Birdcage” to a submarine captain in ”

The most overrated actor – Julia Roberts. Yeah, we loved her in “Steel Magnolias” but her last few movies have tanked “Larry Crowe” and “Eat, Love, Pray.” Let’s face it – she’s overpaid.

Agree? Disagree?

In need of some romance

September 23, 2011
Cover of "The Family Man"

Cover of The Family Man

“Where’s the romance? “Where’s the joie de vivre?” Neighbor Arnie to Jack in Family Man.

One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite Christmas movies – Family Man with Nicholas Cage. Who would have thought a Christmas movie could be so romantic?

Based on an idea that we missed something or someone, the movie shows us what would it be like to go back and change the outcome of your life. In Nick Cage‘s life, after a widely successful New York City single life, he woke up one day to find he was married to his childhood sweetheart. And he had two kids. And he was a blue-collar working man living in New Jersey for his father-in-law, no less. Cage and his “wife” have fallen into what he thinks is a boring routine. That is until he has the chance to really embrace it.

Dating is fun but stressful. Marriage is wonderful, but stressful. Babies are beautiful, but… yes, you guessed it – stressful. Where does the romance go or is it there all along and we don’t see it? I remember how exciting it was to find a babysitter and be able to enjoy a wonderful meal with my husband. Alone. With candles. And I didn’t have to cut his food. Or pour another glass of milk because someone spilled theirs on the table. And actually finish my meal. Now THAT was romantic!

I remember as the kids started leaving home for college. I almost felt as though we (my husband and I) had made it through some rough gauntlet and came out the other end relatively unscathed. It was almost like starting all over again.

I think women never tire of the surprise bouquet of flowers just because she felt he said something insensitive (he probably didn’t think it was, but she did and that was all that mattered – Romantic).

Other little things are extremely romantic. Watching your mate give your dog a bath (for some reason I think this is sexy and romantic) or when he hands you Kleenex after Kleenex and listens (really listens) to you as you relate some minor incident in your life that has, at that moment, devastated you. Romantic.

“We women are funny that way” Erica to Harry in Somethings Got to Give when explaining why woman want it all when it comes to romance.

Flowers? Yup, I’ll take ’em anyway they come. It doesn’t have to be roses. In fact, I’m more partial to daisies anyway.


memo to 20/20, Primetime and Dateline

September 19, 2011
Dateline NBC

I like to watch true murder mysteries and there are plenty of those types of shows on TV. These shows come on around 9 or 10 p.m. and usually I’m a little tired and just want to veg at that time of night,  so I have a couple to choose from. The top three are 20/20, Primetime and Dateline. (My hairdresser just told me about another, “Snap” that I need to check into one of these days.)

Last night I got hooked on a story about a Silicon Valley family who traveled to Oregon for Thanksgiving and made the wrong turn on the way home. They ended up spending nine days trapped in their mini van on a deserted forest trail while it snowed and bears hovered. Did they make it out alive? How did they survive in that mini-van? (Their two daughters, btw, were a 4-year-old and a baby). Weren’t their family and friends wondering where they were?

It would take two hours to find out those answers.

Which leads me to my memo to 20/20, Primetime and Dateline: Why the heck does it take so long to tell us these stories?

The answer: There are at least 100 commercials to watch and every time we come back from these commercial breaks, the host (and the Dateline guy is the worse) has to recap the crime scene, show us the same photos, tell us a little about the town this is all taking place in AND always ask the question: “Will they ever be found?” “Will the murderer ever be discovered?”

Yes, eventually we will find the answers to these questions but it will take the entire evening. And by then, I really want to know!

So I have one thing to say – Thank God for TiVo or whatever recording device you may have hooked up to your TVs. Of course, I can say I remember when you physically had to push the play and record button on your VCR and someone needed to be home at that precise time with a clean tape to record it for you. Now, because of geniuses in Silicon Valley (like the guy who is lost in his mini van) you just have to push the red button on your remote control. Dang… this is easy.

So I did. I pushed it about 3/4s of the way through this story because today, during my lunch break, I’m going to finish watching this story and find out just what happened to the Silicon Valley family.

Oprah … do I really need to know all this?

August 30, 2011
Winfrey on the first national broadcast of The...

Oprah on one of her first shows.

I recently returned from a fabulous week at Lake Tahoe. Sun, water, good friends, great wine and lots of helping hands in the kitchen. There were a couple of things I wanted to make sure I did while in Tahoe:

Swim in the lake – check

Play in one of the casinos – check

Catch up with friends from high school days – check

Sleep in – well, not so much (but I did manage some great naps)

Boat around the entire lake – Nope (it’s a gigantic lake!)

Read – I tried….

I was happy to take the ol’ Nook out for a trial run. I had no idea what to read so I got a few suggestions from my sister and then made sure to download them all before I left. I’ve got to say that’s one fabulous thing about the Nook – You do not have to pack books and magazines along with all the clothes you’re never going to wear on vacation.

I really like biographies and my sister Nancy suggested Oprah by Kitty Kelly. I’m not a big fan of Oprah or Kitty Kelly but it sounded trashy and an easy read. When I finally had some early morning time to myself, I brought out the Nook and proceeded to flip to the Oprah book.

A couple of things about Oprah that I know. We are the same age so I understand the changes going on around her during the sixties and seventies. I know she likes to share stories about her personal growth while keeping her past at arm’s length. She’s never been married or raised any children (I did know something about a pregnancy during her teen years but wasn’t sure what happened with that). She has a boyfriend and a BFF.

I don’t really watch her show and thought when she finally bowed out this year, it was a bit over-the-top.

Kitty Kelly, on the other hand, likes to write unauthorized biographies which are good and bad. Good, because I don’t think the subject would really tell-all, and bad because I’m not sure her sources are all that unbiased or honest.

So with an open mind (truly) I began the Oprah saga.

There were a couple of interesting facts I found out like her high school years. Oprah was smart (I didn’t doubt that) and integration in public school was a big time movement and she seemed to enjoy the status. Oprah did really well in school (especially when it came to her speech classes) and went on to college. She also won some beauty contests in her senior year (THAT surprised me) and had a job at a radio station. She was popular and was Senior Class Vice President.

What surprised me is how she has never looked back or helped out her school. Oprah’s high school was located in a low-to-middle class neighborhood. Some years back, the school was turned into a Charter-type school to help low-achieving children. The student body from days past got together to raise much-needed funds for the school (like $50 bricks) and the committee reached out to one of their most famous grads. According to Oprah’s friend (and Senior Class President), Oprah has never responded to their requests or even bought a lousy $50 brick.

Which leads me to ask – How can Oprah build and support a school in Africa for needy children and not help those needy children in her own neighborhood? Mind you, I totally understand Oprah can spend her billions anyway she wants, but it’s hard for me to believe her heart doesn’t want to help those who are now walking in her shoes.

I made it past her high school years, college days and on to her first job in broadcasting. I’m not sure if Kitty Kelly just doesn’t like Oprah or Oprah was a big time be-atch, but the stories got to be a bit nasty.

I can’t ready anymore about Oprah. I need a break and shake her from my head.

My sisters and I will be heading out for a weekend to celebrate some birthdays. Can anyone give me a suggestion for another good biography?

It’s hot outside…. go to a movie!

August 21, 2011
The Movies box art
Meet Cheryl Phillips. An avid reader, former librarian, and absolute movie fan. Cheryl has given tips over the years on books and movies her friends might enjoy. What I love about  these recommendations is that they are not always award-winning films or best-selling books. 
In other words – she opens my word. 
She will occasionally be posting some of her reviews. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Cher’s Review of The Help
We are always a bit leery of going to a movie based on a book that we absolutely loved.   Well, all you Help readers can put your fears aside.
 I have never seen a movie that stayed as true to the book as this one.  Every single character that you loved/hated in The Help book, shows up  on the screen – and you will love Miss Mae Mobley all over again, and you will love to hate Miss Hilly from the moment she opens her mouth.
Some reviewers wanted to make this movie all about the Civil Rights Movement  and weren’t happy that racism wasn’t front and center in the story.  Obviously these reviewers didn’t read the book, or didn’t get it if they did.  The book’s theme  was not the Civil Rights Movement.
Racism in Mississippi in the early 1960s was the physical and political setting for the story,  but was not the theme.  The theme was about how three very different women use their bravery and courage  to create change in the world.  There is laughter, friendship, love, loss and heartache filling the screen every second and you will find that you haven’t even moved for the entire 2 hours and 17 minutes.
The Help is that rare film with brilliant performances and a beginning, middle and end.  Don’t know how they did this without 3D, explosions, sex scenes and animation.  Absolutely amazing…………..
My prediction:  Come Oscar season – the sleeper will be Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote.

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